Underdog Warriors Upset Mavs in NBA Playoffs
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Well, the Golden State Warriors lost so many games this season they barely made the pro basketball playoffs, yet this bottom-seated team finished off the top seat last night. It is the first time there has ever been such an upset in a seven-game series.
The final game wasn't even close. The Warriors beat the Dallas Mavericks 111 to 86. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.
(Soundbite of cheering)
TOM GOLDMAN: Here at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, this crowd of over 20,000 is going absolutely nuts. The score is 86 to 63 and it's only the end of the third quarter. The question is, can they keep it up?
Of course they could. These were the believers. It said so on the yellow t-shirts almost all of them wore: We believe. From afar, former player and current TV commentator Charles Barkley has stoked the passion by good naturedly trashing the Warriors, the Bay Area, even going so far as to wear a Mavericks jersey during a telecast. But what's really gotten the Bay riled up is a Golden State team playing exquisite basketball led by a player who got the wow vote from Dallas coach Avery Johnson after last night's game.
Mr. AVERY JOHNSON (Head Coach, Dallas Mavericks): And boy, you really have to take your hats off to Baron Davis. How special was he in this playoff?
GOLDMAN: Very special. Even the Mavericks admitted that Davis, the Warriors' bearded point guard, was essentially unguardable on offense. Last night probably was his most inspiring performance. He left the game early with a hamstring strain, and when he returned he was hobbled even as he scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Mr. BARON DAVIS (Point Guard, Golden State Warriors): I knew I couldn't be as explosive as I could, but - as I was, you know, earlier in the series - but I know that I could play a good floor game and do some things out there to make it necessary for us to win.
GOLDMAN: One of the key things he did was tell teammates they had to cover for him, and Stephen Jackson in particular took it to heart. Jackson is a talented player, but his image with many fans nationwide is that of a quick-tempered fighter. He infamously went into the stands swinging during that scary brawl in Detroit a few years ago. Last night, however, might have been Jackson's moment of redemption on the court. His 33 points demoralized the Mavericks. Jackson said it was the least he could do for his long-time friend Baron Davis.
Mr. STEPHEN JACKSON (Guard-Forward, Golden State Warriors): You know, we just try to be each other's backbone and support each other. And he's supported me through everything, and, you know, I'll give him my life. I'd die for him out there on the court. So, today when he told that he didn't have it, you know, I knew I had to bring my focus and I have to stay in the game, and I was able to do that.
GOLDMAN: Jackson also played another game of stifling defense on Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, who will do everything in his power to forget this series. Nowitzki was a star during the regular season and might still be named league most valuable player, but he appeared shaken and out of sorts against Golden State. Last night, Avery Johnson said what troubled him most about the series was his team's lack of confidence.
A supremely confident Golden State team now moves on to the second round of the playoffs. That's right, as confetti streamed from the rafters last night, you had to remind yourself this was simply the first round but no doubt special, and the proof was on the TV monitors throughout Oracle Arena. There was Charles Barkley himself wearing a yellow t-shirt that read: We believe.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Oakland.